Keeping the rower employees engaged at La Salle

A proof of employee engagement, experts say, is that staffers fully understand their organization's mission and can articulate their role in it. If that's the case, the nine people working for La Salle University registrar Dominic Galante are fully engaged.

That's what struck me when I visited Galante at La Salle on the day the university feted him for his 50 years on the job. He left the office on an errand and when he did, I walked around talking to his folks. Their responses to him and their job were remarkable for how closely they mirrored the philosophies that Galante had expressed to me in an interview minutes earlier. You can read my story about him in Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer.

1101 CAT fifty02.jpg
Dominic Galante worked 50 years at La Salle University.

Keep in mind, this is a university, where everyone is equal, except maybe the academic types, like the professors, may be a little more equal. The people in the registrar's office, which keeps academic records for La Salle's alumni and 6,600 current students, plus handles all the class scheduling, are more like the invisible hamsters that keep the place going, rowing the oars (to mix a metaphor) on the great ship of higher learning.

It's not difficult to imagine a scenario where these folks could easily feel downtrodden and unappreciated.

But Galante believes, and they believe with him, that they provide a pivotal service to the community. The records must be kept accurately and requests must be responded to quickly. "He instills in us that our job is important," said associate registrar Jean Landis. "If the transcript doesn't go to the right place, in a timely fashion, that person might not get into graduate school, or get a job."   

That similar sentiment was echoed by others. One young man said that Galante, known to be a stickler for university policy, doesn't have to lay down the law to get them to work. "He inspires us." All of them take pride in a reputation they say they have for being the most customer-friendly office in the university.

One way Galante has earned their support is to come out of his corner office to do the least senior of jobs when the times demand it. Plenty of times he picks up the phone, or works the service counter or stuffs envelopes. "He rolls up his sleeves," said Cheryl Hoffman, a secretary.

They worry that Galante, now 68, will retire, even though he says he plans to keep on working. "We're proud of our boss," said Landis. "We're not ready for him to retire. We tell him he's not allowed."